MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Friday allowed delivery of special pious food to be delivered by Jain Temple Trusts in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik to devotees observing the nine-day Ayambil fast from April 19 to April 27.
The delivery is to take place through a team of volunteers, organized by them not exceeding seven persons or by professional distribution service agencies permitted by state in its April 13 Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
A bench of Justices S C Gupte and Abhay Ahuja who heard the matter filed by two religious Jain Trusts for permission to let devotees go to the places of worship to “take away’’ the special boiled food, prepared there, had on Thursday asked the state to work out a solution by enabling delivery via volunteers instead. The food has to be free of salt, spices and other ingredients, advocate K P Shah, who represented petitioners Shree Trustee Atma Kamal Lab Labdhisurishwarji Jain Gyanmandir Trust and Sheth Motisha Religious and Charitable Trust had said.
The state government through its counsel Jyoti Chavan said it has no objection on distribution of pious food by regulated delivery system as proposed by the HC.
After hearing the matter on Friday, the HC directed that while preparing food and delivering it to devotees, petitioner Trusts and their agents shall abide by SOPs under the Covid-19 restrictions guidelines issued by the state government.
The HC said, “it is made clear that under no circumstances shall devotees be allowed to enter temple premises for taking away pious food allowed by this order.’’
The Trusts shall communicate names and particulars of the delivery volunteers to the jurisdictional police station or concerned authority under Disaster Management Act responsible for monitoring SOPs in advance, said the HC.
The petitions had sought almost 60 Jain Trusts or temples, names of which were annexed, to open their temples for Jain devotees, consistent with the SOPs. But their immediate plea was restricted for permission to enable devotees to be served the special fasting food for the 9-day ‘tap’, to be consumed once a day. Since the SOP barred places of worship from staying open, the Trusts sought judicial intervention.
“To allow devotees to come to premises” of religious trust does not fulfill the rigors of SOP issued by state, said the HC.
The SOP of the state does not permit any dining hall to operate so as to allow in-room dining for any number of people. Considering the rigors of the SOP, the petitioners amended petition by including alternative prayer by catering the special food through takeaway mode, the HC noted.
Considering that the state has permitted restaurants and other food joints to cater to public through home delivery services and not through in-dining, it would be clearly in the interest of justice to allow these Jain charities to deliver food through home delivery services, said the HC.
The SOP does not permit serving of food at location but permits delivery at stated hours. Whereas, as far as restaurants are concerned, delivery hours are not stated.
The HC noted that Additional government pleader Chavan has no objection to the delivery system to be operated by Trust subject to number of delivery agents being restricted at acceptable numbers. “Considering various circumstances and having regard to number of devotees that each religious trust may have to cater food, this court is of the view that delivery system be operated by team of volunteers not more than seven by each of religious Trusts. It is needless to add that the delivery system through volunteers be operated strictly in keeping with SOPs by respondent state. The state government has no objection on distribution of pious food by regulated delivery system as proposed by state,’’ said the HC in its order.
The HC directed state to allow the Jain Trusts to use kitchens in their temples for preparation of the special pious food Ayambil, and distribute it to Jain devotees.